Back in January, when all the media outlets were pushing diet plans on those of us who made New Year's resolutions to Lose Weight, I read about a diet plan that was gaining traction in the UK, but one that I hadn't read a lot about here, state-side.
It's called the 5:2 Diet (or 5:2 Plan), and basically it boils down to 1. You eat normally for five days and 2. You "fast" for two days. That's it.
I put "fast" in quotes because on those two days, you're limited to 500 calories (women) or 600 calories (men).
Initially I was a bit skeptical. It sounded too good to be true. Not only would I lose a few extra pounds, but research shows that intermittent fasting could extend my life and put me at decreased risk for a number of diseases, including Alzheimers, cancer, and diabetes. On the other hand, this was/is no rapid weight loss plan. By "fasting" two days per week, one could expect to lose a pound per week: the medical profession recommends that dieters lose no more than two pounds per week.
Then I watched this BBC program about the 5:2 Diet and the research being done on the benefits of intermittent fasting:
I decided to give it a go.
My first "fasting" day was awful. The morning wasn't so bad -- I'm fine if I can start the day with a couple cups of coffee -- but by early evening I was ready to dive into my refrigerator. This was after enjoying a 290-calorie vegetarian Lean Cuisine meal for lunch. The only thing that got me through the day was promising myself that when I woke up the next morning, I could eat whatever and whenever I wanted. I ended up going to bed early, my stomach growling so loud my husband could hear it!
But lo and behold ... eight hours later, and I wasn't really that hungry when I opened my eyes after a surprisingly good night's sleep. I got up, had my morning cup of coffee, ate my regular lunch at 11:30 a.m., and then had a snack (nuts) later in the afternoon when I needed a bit of caloric pick-me-up. I was also a wee bit more in tune with my hunger pangs -- I noticed that I didn't feel true hunger until later in the day and that when I dragged my gluten-free chips out for an evening of "Survivor," I wasn't really all that hungry. I've never thought of myself as an "emotional eater," but I've since realized that I do an awful lot of eating out of habit (i.e. watching tv, sitting at my computer, driving in a car) instead of eating when I'm truly hungry. The experiment was worth it just to discover this about my habits!
So ... I've been 5:2ing for about six weeks. I've lost five pounds. I wouldn't say easily, especially on the days where I'm limited to 500 calories, but the plan has gotten easier to follow AND I love being able to eat whatever I want five days per week. The other benefit is that I've made a couple small organic changes to my eating habits as a result of following this schedule. For example, I don't like to eat foods that are processed and that includes milk. If I'm going to drink milk, I'll drink whole milk, not skimmed. However, whole milk has a lot of calories. On my fasting days, I'm limited to one cup to use in my coffee (which I drink without sweetener), so I decided to try drinking my coffee black. Ugh. Yuck. Gross. But you know what? Like babies, adults need repetitive introductions to new tastes before they get used to them, and slowly, I've gotten used to drinking my coffee black. Yes, I still miss my milk, but it sure is nice being able to have some fruit and a cup of yogurt in the morning on those "fast" days.
As for the "fast" days, they don't have to be consecutive. Mine are Tuesdays and Fridays. I picked these days because there's nothing that great on television those nights, LOL. I can eat whatever I like on the weekends and don't have to face Monday knowing I'm going to starve all day. And really ... the "fast" days have gotten better. I allow myself extra time to work on my hobbies so the day flies by and I get distracted enough not to think about the shrimp and corn chowder in the fridge, or the platter of snickerdoodles on our sideboard.
So I'll keep you posted. I'd like to stick with this through the end of the year. I don't have a huge amount of weight to lose, and I know once the weather gets warmer, I'll lose even more weight simply because I'll be on my bike more.